Justice for Children
The concept of Justice for Children goes beyond juvenile justice to support child witnesses and victims as well. UNICEF is cooperating closely with Parliament to prepare a law on juvenile justice, and with Ministries of Interior and Justice on other aspects of Justice for Children. The basis of Juvenile Justice is that if a child offends against the law, the responsibility is at least as much that of adults around the child as the child himself or herself, and depriving a child of liberty should only be considered as the last resort. Children are both the victims of violence, as well as sometimes the perpetrators of violence. While any form of law-breaking is strictly condemned, UNICEF works with local NGOs to remind the law-enforcement system that no matter what crime has been committed, the accused is still a child. These cases must be carefully handled, especially since the children are often committing their first crime which makes it crucial to avoid letting them think that crime is an inevitable future. Examples of the broader Justice for Children agenda are UNICEF’s work with the Ministry of the Interior to establish child-friendly rooms at police stations, and work with the Ministry of Justice to create child-friendly courtrooms. UNICEF also supports the training of police juvenile inspectors around the country, encouraging them to show greater understanding towards juvenile lawbreakers. Similar efforts are also underway at the police and justice academies to integrate children’s justice issues into official curriculum. ``We want there to be norms for law-enforcement officials when working with children, and to maintain a friendly environment so that children are not traumatized,’’ said Kamala Ashumova, Director of Psycho-Social Rehabilitation and Legal Aid Services Centre for Juveniles in Conflict with the Law. ``The criminal justice system can be traumatic for children, and if they go to jail there is a greater chance they will remain in a life of crime.’’ UNICEF has been a main source of financing of the initiative since 2007, and besides training law-enforcement officials who handle juvenile cases, the money goes to run a drop-in centre for those at risk. ``We are here to work with both children and parents, to help them avoid a life of law violation,’’ said Ashumova. ``We have to explain that their future will be bleak if they don’t change.’’. The Centre gives children the tools they need to be able to make that change. The goal is to pilot sustainable juvenile justice models that keep these children from ever entering the formal justice system. It is expected that the Government will replicate these models now they have been shown to be effective.